Since its launch in 1987, The Cooperator's annual Co-op & Condo Expo has become a fixture on the business calendar of vendors, service providers, board members, building staff members and residents all over the tri-state area. Each year, they all converge under one roof to learn about new products and technologies, exchange information, network and improve how their buildings and businesses are run.
The 2011 Expo was no exception—over 3,000 attendees packed the Hilton New York on Tuesday, April 12, 2011, to visit some 300 exhibit booths spread over three floors and take in this year's lineup of informative educational seminars.
According to Yale Robbins, president of Yale Robbins, Inc., producer of the Expo and publisher of The Cooperator, producing the Expo is more than just organizing a trade show. “Obviously our goal is to present attendees with information and products that will make running their buildings easier and more efficient, but we also put a great deal of thought into the bigger picture, anticipating trends and trying to broaden and build on our offerings from one year to the next.”
Henry Robbins, executive vice president and director of sales for Yale Robbins, Inc., agrees, adding that despite the sluggishness of the economy overall, attendance and interest in the Expo—both from vendors and attendees—has grown each year since the show was launched nearly a quarter-century ago. “It's really our exhibitors and our attendees who make this show what it is,” says Robbins. “Their enthusiasm and interest is contagious—the fact that the event grows and draws more people each year is proof of that.”
Education, Advice & More
Along with the exhibitor booths, one of The Cooperator’s annual Expo mainstays is the day’s lineup of educational seminars. For this year’s Expo, a half-dozen different topics were presented by an array of experts from every corner of the industry.
The day's programming kicked off with The Daylight Savings Company's “Energy Efficiency and Sustainability: Hype vs. Perception & Reality,” which sought to dispel some of the confusion and anxiety among boards, managers, and residents over the current smorgasbord of “greener” energy options. The panel of speakers—which included Adam Boese and Frank Lauricella of The Daylight Savings Company, Phil Madnick of Con Edison, Michael Colgrove of the New York State Energy Research & Development Authority (NYSERDA) and Michael Weisberg of M-Core Credit Corporation—addressed the importance of energy efficiency in the mix of sustainable building solutions; how energy audits are used to develop cost-effective capital improvement projects; how to manage board/resident expectations; how to develop an appropriate energy reduction plan and several financing methods. According to Boese, “The most important thing to remember is annual energy audit updates and annual re-commissioning. Get an engineer to help with equipment selections.”
NYSERDA’s Colgrove offered that with the right program, energy savings are readily achievable. “Some of the programs I'm going to discuss today,” Colgrove noted, “some are geared toward energy efficiency and some are geared toward actual energy reduction. These programs are available to co-op board members, building owners, condo owners—we're looking at it as a building as a whole approach.”
He added that some buildings that have “undergone a post-retrofit are seeing an annual savings of 25 percent—that's 25 percent of your total annual energy bill disappearing, that's money that's going right into the pocket of the building. And we're seeing that on average.”
This approach, Colgrove said, helps also to look at health and comfort as well as energy savings. “So it's making sure that the Smith family on the 2nd floor of the building is receiving the same sort of heating distribution as the Johnson family on the 12th floor. It's about balancing distributions, it’s about looking at health and comfort, plus continued affordability for residents.”
Boese advised managers and residents to exercise caution in finding the right providers. “You can find a lot of assistance, a lot of incentives in different places but it will not pay fully for the project. There are no silver bullets,” he cautioned.
Next on the roster was “A Network Ahead: Broadband & the Future of Wired/Wireless Communication,” sponsored by Verizon. Panelists discussed new technologies for networking, system integration, and keeping residents connected. According to Gregory Harris, sales manager for Verizon, there are a wealth of technology amenities today and apps available that enhance the value of anyone’s property.
Surveys done by the company revealed that homeowners are looking for lifestyle changes tied to their entertainment and communications devices. Twenty-six percent of the respondents wanted the ability to remotely control lights, appliances, heating and cooling and other devices, Harris said, while another 21 percent desired to use security cameras that can be accessed via the web or mobile phone.
Attracting a standing-room-only crowd that spilled out of the seminar area into the surrounding aisles, the “Legal Briefs for Boards: Tips for Rulemaking and Resolving Building Conflicts” sponsored by the Stark & Stark legal team was an extremely popular pick. The seminar discussed the creation, function and importance of governing documents and rules.
The differences between co-op and condo ownership and governance were covered in detail, as well as the responsibilities of boards in both settings to uphold their own rules and deal fairly with all shareholder/owners. “When you become a shareholder or a unit owner in a co-op or condominiums, you're agreeing to be bound by the governing documents of the association,” said Steven Lasser, an attorney shareholder with Stark & Stark's New York City office.
Amending the governing documents occasionally is advisable, say the experts. “We try to make sure that the tone of the rules, whatever they might be, are fair and evenhanded,” said panelist Peter von Simson of New Bedford Management. “We try to structure our board and help them down a road where they are doing what's in the best interest for their building as a whole.”
Use of alternative dispute resolution or ADR was also discussed. “About 90 percent of the resolution to conflicts within the co-op or condominium can be resolved through proper communication,” added panelist Jay Cohen of Manhattan-based A. Michael Tyler Realty. Stark & Stark attorney shareholder David J. Byrne added that, “If you resolve your dispute by ADR, you can create an outcome that actually is useful for you in your building that a judge is not legally able to give you.”
Of particular interest to anyone paying attention to the new federal requirements for home loans and their implications for co-op and condo communities was the next seminar, “Getting Your Project Approved: Strategic Planning for HUD and Fannie Mae Condominium Compliance” sponsored by National Condo Advisors. This seminar went in-depth discussing the effects of increased compliance required for condominium project approval, including the new Fannie Mae reserve study requirements. Under this provision, a condo association must have at least 10 percent of its budgeted income designated for replacement reserves and adequate funds budgeted for the insurance deductible.
“Financing for condominium development is quite limited right now,” said National Condo Advisors president Orest Tomaselli. “We're already seeing the impact on condominium development with the withdrawal of Freddie Mac now. With the dissolution of Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac taking place over the next 5 to 7 years, it's not surprising it's affecting the availability of mainstream financing of condominium development which is integral. There's going to be quite a disconnect between what we can get approved and what we can't get approved.”
The late afternoon brought BuildingLink's “Cutting Edge Communication Tools for Managers,” which delved into how the Internet, online communication, and social networking have transformed how managers, boards, and residents interact. This seminar covered how the web has changed how properties are managed, and gave tips on how today's managers can use it to make their jobs easier and more efficient than ever before.
“Years ago if you needed to shut down water to a floor,” said BuildingLink’s Susan Mauti, “you had to print up a note, go to the floor and leave notes under the resident's doors. Now you can type up an e-mail, select the floor and send out an e-mail to the residents informing them.”
Managers have so many things on their plates these days, said Tim Jessup, a former property manager, who now works at BuildingLink, that they don’t have enough time in the day to get everything done. That’s why the more communication tools they have at their disposal makes their jobs easier.
Speaker Steven Geller of Meridian Capital Group had a great deal to share with attendees at the final seminar of the day, “Everything You Need to Know About Underlying Co-op Financing.” This popular seminar discussed mortgage loans and refinancing options for the board/management team—an important issue, especially in today's challenging economy.
“The fear of an interest-only loan today is mitigated by several factors,” said Geller. “You should take a look at it because it's a very interesting way to address significant capital improvement today without turning your maintenance upside down.”
Keeping ahead of scheduled capital improvements is important, he said. “You have to put the money into the co-op to repair the roof, to repair the elevators, the windows, the boilers, the lobby. You have to make those improvements to maintain the value of the asset,” Geller said.
Gifts & Giveaways
Exhibitors come to the Expo to get their products and services in front of thousands of building decision-makers; attendees come for information, networking, education,.and of course, prizes. Exhibitor-sponsored prizes at the 2011 show included gift cards, iPods, power tools, Yankees and Mets tickets, and the grand prize, a $3,500 contribution to one lucky building's reserve fund, courtesy of Yale Robbins, Inc. and The Cooperator.
Many annual favorites returned as well. On the top floor of the show in Americas Hall II, the always-popular cyber café did brisk business all day, and guests could also take advantage of an array of distinguished professionals from across the residential industry who generously donated their time in the free advice booth area.
Next Year’s Expo…
Even before the 2011 Expo wrapped up and exhibitors started taking down their booths, planning and preparation began for the 2012 show. Next year's show promises to be even bigger and broader, with more exhibitors, more seminars, and more of what makes The Cooperator's annual Co-op & Condo Expo so great. The 2012 Expo will return to the Hilton New York on April 17 next year with an even more diverse array of exhibitors, another roster of enlightening educational seminars, and more business networking opportunities per square-foot than any other such trade show in the region. Stay tuned to www.coopexpo.com for dates, more information, important deadlines, and online registration. We look forward to seeing you there!
Hannah Fons is the associate editor of The Cooperator.